On a Medieval Day contains nine sophisticated stories depicting life during the Middle Ages. Narrated by teen and preteen boys and girls, the stories extend beyond the Eurocentric realm of knights and Gothic castles to captivating medieval settings in China, Japan, and Mali.
Toronto author Rona Arato – a former teacher and author of On a Canadian Day in the same series – has clearly done her research. Deft descriptions of clothing, homes, family relationships, commerce, leisure activities, and food mix expertly with the intriguing circumstances and environment of each medieval protagonist. Montreal-born illustrator Peter Ferguson – who lives in Japan – has painted oil portraits that are reminiscent of exotic fairytales in their surrealism, intensity, and charm.
After each story, an illustrated factual spread displays the key features of various civilizations during the medieval period. A few details seem slightly askew, however. In the section on Japan, for example, the book states that children were “not allowed to make loud noises” because their “houses were made of paper.” This suggests that Japanese houses resembled origami structures. As well, the information on the contents page is inconsistent in the level of detail given about place names and kingdoms.
Despite these minor flaws, this is a gorgeous book to be savoured, read aloud, and enjoyed repeatedly.